Bicycle Friendly Community
Imagine: It’s the year 2020. In Fort Collins, Colorado, one in every five people travels by bike — and there are zero bicycle-related fatalities. The foundation for achieving this vision, set forth in the city’s 2014 Bicycle Master Plan, is a low-stress bicycling network: a comfortable, safe and connected system of world-class bicycle infrastructure, accessible to all residents and visitors, aged 8 to 80.
I think we can all agree: Movement is essential to the human condition… Americans, especially American drivers in the Frontier, like to believe they are free to move, but I have found free and equal mobility to be a myth. Some are in charge of it. Some are excluded or even imprisoned by it.
In 2013, the City of Richfield became the first suburb in Minnesota to be awarded the Bicycle Friendly Community designation in Minnesota. We’ve since been joined by our neighboring City of Edina but I’m still often asked by staff and bike advocates in other suburban cities: What are the key issues we should focus on to become a more bicycle friendly suburban community?
Growing up, cycling all over Dublin city center on the thousand-year-old narrow streets I never imagined another life, decades later, bicycling around the northern Virginia suburbs. This isn’t to say you won’t find me ferrying teenagers around in my minivan, but when I can I use my bike instead. It’s fast and it’s cheap and just seems like a nicer way to encounter the world. But nowadays when I bike, many aspects of how and where I ride differ greatly from back in my Dublin days — because of the suburban location.
This Friday during our weekly Twitter chat, #BikeChat, we asked the question, “What does a Bicycle Friendly Community look like to you?” Bicycle Friendly Communities come in all shapes and sizes. In one you might ride past a dairy farm, with nothing but green ahead of you, and in the next you might be stopping at a bike-specific red light within a two-way cycle track on a busy city block. We work with community leaders in neighborhoods big or small, sprawling or compact, densely or sparsely populated, and everything in between.
What do Portland and Boulder have in common? They are, of course, both considered among the most bike-friendly places in the United States — including by the League. They are two of just four Platinum level communities in our Bicycle Friendly Community program. And in recent years, both communities have dropped the ball when it comes to addressing the needs of, and providing opportunities for, mountain bikers. Boulder has opened the excellent Valmont Park facility recently, but in both cities, there are large swathes of prime mountain biking venues that are declared out of bounds, for no good reason. The local mountain bike community feels unfairly shut out, despite going to great lengths to go through the appropriate channels, follow the process, be part of planning meetings, hearings, studies etc.
Pioneered by Northeastern University Professor Peter Furth and others, Level of Traffic Stress (LTS) analysis has brought to the forefront a means to identify barriers to riding for people with a low tolerance for traffic. It’s a Big Idea that’s taking root across the country and we’re excited to hear more on this timely topic from Tim Blagden, Executive Director of the Bike-Walk Alliance of New Hampshire, at the 2015 National Bike Summit in March.
For many in the bike movement, Portland has an almost mythical status — earning the distinction of being the closest we’ve come in the United States to a major metropolitan cycling uptopia. But Portlandia faces the same challenges as the rest of urban America, including the burgeoning need to bring biking to the suburbs.
Leah Shahum had a jarring realization in 2013. In the wake of a particularly fatal year for bicyclists and pedestrians in San Francisco, it became clear to her that the slow, piecemeal approach to create safer streets wasn’t moving nearly fast enough. It was time to redraw the lines of the debate, shift the cultural compass for the city, the public and advocates to no longer accept traffic deaths as tragedies out of their control. So, at the start of 2014, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition launched a Vision Zero campaign, calling for a reduction of all traffic deaths to zero in 10 years.
Seattle is honored to have our Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community designation renewed. Residents and businesses continue to raise the bar and expect the delivery of first-rate, family friendly bike facilities. We are striving to meet this demand by building a citywide network that attracts people of all ages and abilities; all income levels; and all ethnicities. We are especially pleased that the league acknowledged the importance we place on equity.